Saturday April 20, 2024

Without contradicting facts, spokesperson objects to Ansar Abbasi’s story

By Ahmad Noorani
December 10, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister Office (PMO) has decided to file complaint with Press Counsel of Pakistan (PCP) against Ansar Abbasi, Editor Investigations ‘The News’ for filing the story on as to who misfed PM Imran Khan that PTI government signed agreements with 26 countries for exchange of information.

Prime Minister’s spokesman and his Special Assist (SAPM) Iftikhar Durrani told The News the headline of the Ansar Abbasi story was ‘wrong and hurting’. Durrani said it is absolutely wrong to say that prime minister is misfed on this account. He said that standard of journalism has fallen badly and journalists need to grow and understand issues.

Iftikhar Durrani was asked whether the prime minister has ordered any inquiry following disclosure of an embarrassing scandal that PM Imran Khan was misfed to claim the credit of signing agreements with some 26 countries for exchange of information about billions of dollars money of Pakistanis parked in foreign banks while as a matter of fact PTI government hasn’t signed any single agreement and actually the agreement for such exchange of information was signed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar in 2016 which has become effective now from September this year. Durrani said that media failed to understand the issue and everything in this regard was done during the regime of PTI government. He said that journalists are facing serious problem of understanding the issues. Durrani said that on ground operational work was initiated only during the PTI government. When he was told that media had been covering the developments when these agreements with OECD and Switzerland were being signed during the tenure of Ishaq Dar as the finance minister and these agreements have to become operational only now and their becoming operational has nothing to do with the PTI government, Durrani contradicted the information saying every practical step was taken after PTI government came into power.

Keeping aside what Iftikhar Durrani said, top PPP leader and a brave politician Farhatullah Babar Sunday demanded that the prime minister should apologise to the nation for the falsehood on account of claiming credit of signing agreement with 26 countries whereas same was done by the PML-N government. Babar tweeted, “Truth finally comes out about agreements with 26 countries for information exchange about wealth kept abroad. Agreements signed by Ishaq Dar in 2016, not by PTI govt. Imran has been falsely claiming credit & maligning opponents. Falsehood exposed. Self-respect demands apology.”

Not only Farhatullah Babar, but even Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shehzad Akbar also admitted during a talk show on Sunday that the multilateral treaty for exchange of information was signed in 2016 when Ishaq Dar was the finance minister. However, during this talk show, Shehzad Akbar first said that credit of signing this agreement could not be given to Ishaq Dar as PTI government started implementation on this treaty and also ratified the bilateral treaty with Switzerland. When he was reminded that the multilateral treaty has to become operational in September this year and information started coming to Pakistan only as the result of the treaty which was signed by Ishaq Dar, Barrister Shehzad Akbar admitted that “credit can be given to Ishaq Dar” but added that PTI government is working on actualisation and ratification of the agreements. As a matter of fact, the agreement with Switzerland was also signed by the then finance minister Ishaq Dar and according to the process, which PTI leaders are confusing, it has to be ratified by Swiss Parliament and later by the Pakistan’s federal cabinet. The statement of SAPM Iftikhar Durrani shows Prime Minister Imran Khan has no intentions to order an inquiry against the individuals responsible to misfeed him about signing of agreement with 26 countries.

Ansar Abbasi reported that in his recent interview with anchors of different TV channels, the prime minister claimed that soon after coming into power it was his government which had signed agreements with 26 countries to get information about the money of Pakistanis stashed in foreign countries. Taking this credit, Imran Khan had even said that previous governments couldn’t sign any such agreements.

Ansar Abbasi reported, “However, the fact as reported by The News on Friday is that not even a single agreement has been signed by the PTI government with any foreign country yet for exchange of information for recovery of billions of dollars hidden abroad by Pakistanis. Instead, the information which has started pouring in from many countries as mentioned by the prime minister is the consequence of a convention signed by Pakistan during the PML-N government.

It is not clear who’s misinformed the prime minister on this issue which rather brought embarrassment to him, as the credit which he had claimed for his government actually belonged to the previous PML-N government. Strangely, the wrong information provided to the prime minister was not cross-checked by his aides owing to which Imran Khan’s opponents got the opportunity to discredit him.

As reported by The News, Islamabad has started receiving information about Pakistanis’ wealth abroad as a consequence of an international convention called “Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD), which is aimed at curbing growing tax evasion and has become effective from September this year. With over 100 member countries, the convention signed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar on Sept 14, 2016 at the OECD Headquarters in Paris allows member countries to get automatic information about Pakistanis’ wealth and investment in the member countries.

In Pakistan’s case, the convention became effective in September this year after a few weeks of arrival of the PTI government. Senior FBR sources confirmed that the information the government was receiving from 26 countries and even more was the result of the legal framework signed in 2016 and which had become effective only a few months back. On September 14, 2016, the OECD itself announced that Pakistan had become the 104th jurisdiction to join the most powerful multilateral instrument against offshore tax evasion and avoidance.”